Today, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledged to support any group that confronts the "cancer" Israel, in an address broadcast on state TV. "From now on, in any place, if any nation or any group confronts the Zionist regime, we will endorse and we will help," he said. "We have no fear expressing this." The speech comes following news that Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta believes Israel could strike Iran in the next few months. So what sort of groups might be on Ali Khamenei's rolodex to "confront" Israel? To get a sense, we pinged a handful of foreign policy think-tanks here in Washington. Here's what they said:
Al Qaeda The idea of the embattled terrorist network teaming up with Iran is a hot topic in foreign policy circles these days, especially following the publication of Seth Jones's article on the subject in Foreign Affairs last week. Iran recently gave new freedoms to a handful of top Al Qaeda operatives who were detained in 2003, according to U.S. officials. Both the Brookings Institution's Kenneth Pollack and CATO's Justin Logan mentioned the group in phone calls with The Atlantic Wire today. While Logan said other groups outside of Al Qaeda constituted a more significant threat, he did fear a "near-term shooting war" with Israel. Pollack said "I think this is mostly rhetoric—they already are helping every group that hates Israel." According to reports, the new freedoms were given to "Al Qaeda's so-called management council, a group that includes members of the inner circle that advised Osama bin Laden and an explosives expert widely considered a candidate for a top post in the organization."